Protecting polling sites

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT
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Tensions are high this year, with contentious political races resulting in confrontations between individuals in support of their favored candidate. This has led to concerns over voter safety. Kathy McCarty has more on what’s being done to protect voters at polling places across the state.

Historically, political parties have long had individuals at the polls, watching the process, from people checking in and registering, to observing the ballots being placed in the ballot box. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says its up to the warden to ensure no one interferes with elections.

“The warden controls the area within 250 feet of the entrance of the polling station. And if someone is engaging in activity - you know, they’re trying to sway voters one way or the other - you can’t campaign at the polls, forbidden by law within 250 feet of the polling place, so they can’t hand out literature. They can’t urge people to vote for this person or that,” says Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s Secretary of State.

Dunlap says militia groups are on the rise and could make their presence known at polling places.

“There’s also been concern about, you know, militia types trying to protect the polls and, you know, having something of a show of force, if you will. If somebody complains about that, the warden can tell them to leave. Now if they refuse to leave, the warden has the legal authority to have them removed by law enforcement and even taken in custody for the entire day, if that’s what it takes to bring order to the situation,” says Dunlap.

No campaigning or signage is allowed within 250 feet of the voting venue.

“If somebody causes a problem, or they’re trying to, you know - even if they have good intentions, if they wind up, you know, putting people off and those people complain about them, the warden does have the power to have them removed,” says Dunlap.

Masks are required at polling locations and can include a candidate’s name or political affiliation. Dunlap says once a person wearing such a mask has voted, they must leave immediately, since this falls under the restriction of no campaigning at the polls. Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

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